TATAS SOLE SUITOR FOR AIR-INDIA 

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By FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 6.07.01
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New Delhi, July 6 :    New Delhi, July 6:  The Tata-Singapore International Airlines consortium today became the only bidder to remain in the fray for Air-India after the Cabinet committees on disinvestment and security disqualified the Hindujas. The London-based Hinduja group is now out of the running for Indian Airlines, too. The other bidder for the domestic carrier - Videocon - was also disqualified, putting an end to the bidding process for Indian Airlines. The Hindujas expressed their "extreme disappointment", saying the decision was "sad" as it had been made at "such a critical stage" in the bid. The new rules, cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Disinvestment today, state that if a company is chargesheeted by an agency or convicted by a court of law over issues related to national security and integrity, it and its sister concerns will not be able to bid for any public sector company. This blocked the Hinduja group, which has been chargesheeted for its alleged involvement in the Bofors scam. Another new rule states that if any company has been indicted or convicted by a regulator or by a court for "a grave offence which outrages (the) moral sense of the community", it would be barred from participating in the selloff process. However, in such cases, the sister concerns will be spared. Interpreting this rule, the Cabinet Committee on Security threw out bids by Videocon for Indian Airlines and by Sterlite for Hindustan Zinc Ltd, as the two companies had been indicted by Sebi for manipulating their share prices. However, bids by BPL Innovation for Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd remained valid, though its sister company had been indicted for an identical offence. Disinvestment minister Arun Shourie clarified that the government's controversial sale of Balco to Sterlite would not be affected as the decisions "were with prospective effect and not retrospective effect". Disinvestment ministry officials said they could now wrap up the process of selling 40 per cent stake in Air-India by the third week of July. The sale could thus be concluded before the monsoon session of Parliament begins. But the selloff is likely to raise a storm in Parliament. Last week, even without knowing the price at which the shares would be sold, Congress chief whip in Parliament Priya Ranjan Das Munshi lashed out at the BJP for trying to sell the airline at an "absurdly low price". The two Left parties also protested against the sale. Amar Singh of the Samajwadi Party issued statements against what he claimed was a conspiracy to sell "a national treasure" for a song.